Robert Russell, ETSU’s director of learning services, earned an incredible opportunity to be on the long-running TV show, “Jeopardy.”

The first time Russell took the test, he was unsuccessful, but with hard work and dedication, he made a dream come true.

“I took the paper and pencil contestant test for the first time in 2005,” Russell said. “I didn’t score well enough to get a “screen test,” but that’s what motivated me to keep trying. Between 2009 and this past spring, I took the online contestant test three times.

Russell was then invited to audition all three times, but wasn’t chosen to participate on the show until this past September.

“I’ve always had a curious mind,” Russell said. “I was a reader from very early on, and fascinated with the obscure details of history and popular culture. For trivia nerds like me, it’s the pinnacle.”

According to Russell, he watched the show off and on for years, less now since he has young children.

“The categories are different every day and in every round, but there are subject areas and types of clues that tend to appear fairly often,” Russell said.

In “Jeopardy,” you play until you lose, and Russell lasted through three games. His strongest areas are literature and geography, and his least favorite categories are the ones that involve wordplay.

Russell got into California on Sunday, filmed Monday and Tuesday, and then caught the red-eye back east on Tuesday night, but he didn’t come home without a little something to make it really worth his while.

“It would’ve been a great experience even if I hadn’t won anything,” Russell said, “but I ended up winning over $40,000 over the course of three games.”

According to Russell, the coolest thing was seeing and experiencing what it’s like behind the scenes.

“The staff of Jeopardy are wonderful, bright, hard-working people,” Russell said. “They made what could’ve been a tense, nerve-wracking experience a lot of fun.”